This is the facelifted Toyota Auris, a car that up until now hasn’t managed to rattle the cages of the best family cars on the market such as the Seat Leon and Nissan Pulsar.
Why is that? Well, we’ve always found it capable but not outstanding in any key areas – bar the hybrid models’ low emissions – and generally rather unexciting.
Recognising this, Toyota has made a number of revisions to the car. Outside you’ll find restyled front and rear bumpers, a new front grille which extends into new headlights with LED daytime running lights, plus LED tail-lights at the rear.
To improve the driving experience the suspension and steering have been recalibrated and there’s extra soundproofing for a more peaceful cabin. The interior also receives an upgrade in quality plus a new 7in touchscreen infotainment system. The dials have changed too and include a 4.2in TFT screen nestled in between.
All the engines now meet Euro 6 emissions targets and the line-up has been augmented with a new 1.2-litre turbo petrol and a 1.6-litre diesel. The previous 1.3-litre petrol, 1.4-litre diesel and 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid continue as before.
What’s the 2015 Toyota Auris like to drive?
If you’re a company car user, the Hybrid is now even cheaper in terms of benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax thanks to a cut in CO2 emissions, to just 79g/km. It’s also available on all trim levels, not just the top-spec cars as before. If you mainly drive in town it makes sense, using its electric motor more often to give decent fuel economy and quiet progress. However, out of town when it needs the petrol engine to add some oomph, it’s a bit of a drag.
Try to overtake or climb up a hill and the CVT automatic gearbox sends the engine spinning up to high revs, causing the pedals and the steering wheel to buzz in the process, meaning it will struggle to match a diesel for low-down shove and real-world economy.
All of which makes the new 1.6-litre diesel engine better suited to those that cover lots of miles on faster roads. That said, it isn’t as clean or frugal as a Nissan Pulsar or Seat Leon diesel, and it’s a little lacklustre to drive. It starts to pull from 1500rpm but doesn’t really get going until 2000rpm. By 3000rpm it’s sounding a bit boomy and unrefined and also sends unwanted vibrations through to the controls.
For the best all-round experience the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol is the one to go for. It’s got enough low-end shove to mean it works in town as well as on the motorway, but best of all it’s as smooth as the Pulsar’s 1.2 petrol and equally happy to rev. While it won’t match the diesel for fuel economy or emissions, it’s not far off it – at least on paper – and it’s cheaper to buy.
Toyota’s fettling with the Auris’s suspension and steering has made it better to drive, if still a little lacklustre next to its rivals. You’ll have more fun in a Leon if you’re a spirited driver, but the Auris corners well enough for most people’s needs – too much body roll in corners is one notable gripe, though.
Although the steering feels a touch too light around the straight-ahead, the software tweaks mean it provides more confidence-inspiring weight as you add lock and it’s pretty direct, too.
The ride’s also smoother over the majority of surfaces. It fidgets over rippled surfaces and thuds over deeply recessed manhole covers, but it’s comfortable the rest of the time.
It was pouring with rain when we drove the car in Belgium, which made it difficult to assess whether the increased sound deadening has made much of a difference to the car’s refinement. From what we could ascertain there’s still a noticeable amount of wind noise at speed and road noise over rough roads, so it’s unlikely to challenge the decidedly hushed Pulsar for cabin refinement.
What’s the 2015 Toyota Auris like inside?
In the front, there’s a decent driving position, led by comfortable seats that have plenty of fore and aft movement and with height adjustment, too. If you are tall the stunted rearward travel from the height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel is the only real limiting factor.
Visibility all-round is okay rather than great. Thick windscreen pillars get in the way of your view forwards and the thick rear pillars limit the view over your shoulder. The instrument dials are clear though, and the new 4.2in TFT screen in the binnacle offers a useful array of driver info.
The majority of the cabin’s upper surfaces are finished in soft-touch materials that feel good, but the overall effect is still rather drab. The dashboard has particularly slab-like styling, which, on the majority of models, is finished in fifty shades of black. On non-hybrid models the heated front seat switches – where fitted – are hidden away behind a cheap-feeling plastic door above the gear lever; it’s an ergonomic oddity in what’s otherwise a pretty user-friendly layout.
At the centre of the dash is the new Touch 2 7in infotainment screen. This is standard on all but the entry-level Active models and on Business Edition versions and above it includes sat-nav as well. The screen is large and clear but it’s a sometimes sluggish to respond to commands, at least compared with some of the best systems out there.
In the rear, space is tight by class standards and someway short of the decidedly roomy Nissan Pulsar. Leg room is the main issue, but head room is also tight with the panoramic glass roof fitted.
In hatchback guise, the boot isn’t as big as its rivals either but does come with a false floor for additional storage. This also allows for a completely flat load bay when you drop the 60/40 folding rear seats down.
The Sports Tourer estate has a much bigger and very well designed load bay. There’s even more under-floor capacity, additional storage bins, a minimal load lip and convenient levers by the tailgate to drop the spring-loaded rear seats in one simple action.
Equipment levels on the Auris are generally similar to its rivals and you can now opt for a Safety Sense package (on all but the entry-level trim). This offers lane assist, automatic high-beam headlights, a road sign assist and a pre-collision alert and avoidance system.
Should I buy one?
It’s better to drive than the old model, that’s for sure. Business users will still find the tax break available for the Hybrid tempting and for private buyers the Auris’s five-year warranty, combined with Toyota’s acclaimed reliability record, offer peace of mind.
In general terms the 1.2-litre petrol engine offers the best combination of refinement, performance and running costs, although it looks pricey next to equivalent engines in the Leon and Pulsar.
So, because these two rivals also offer better all-round packages, and stand out individually thanks to the Pulsar’s better practicality and the Leon’s more enjoyable driving experience, we’d recommend you place them above the Auris on your list of options.
What Car? says…